Fri, 08 Dec 2017
ROME (CNS) -- Standing at the foot of a Marian statue, Pope Francis prayed Mary would help Christians develop the "antibodies" needed to fight the modern diseases of indifference, hypocrisy and fear of foreigners. Celebrating the Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope recited the Angelus prayer at noon with visitors in St. Peter's Square, visited the Rome Basilica of St. Mary Major, laid a basket of white roses at the foot of the Marian statue near the Spanish Steps, then visited the Church of St. Andrew where, in 1842, Mary appeared to Alphonse Ratisbonne, a young Jewish man. He converted to Catholicism and founded the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion. In his prayer near the Spanish Steps in the heart of Rome, Pope Francis thanked Mary for watching over him and over the people of Rome, especially "the sick, the aged, all the poor, the many people who have immigrated here from lands of war and hunger." He prayed that Mary would help people "develop antibodies against some of the viruses of our times: the indifference that says, 'It's not my problem'; civic rudeness which ignores the common good; the fear of what is different and of the foreigner." "The hypocrisy of accusing others while doing the same things; being resigned to environmental and ethical degradation" and "the exploitation of men and women" were other ills the pope listed. Pope Francis noted that 175 years ago when Mary appeared to Ratisbonne in the Rome church, "she showed him a mother full of grace and mercy." He prayed that Christians, "especially in moments of trial and temptation," would, like Ratisbonne, see Mary's open hands pouring out Jesus' grace on the world and giving people the ability "to shed every trace of proud arrogance to see ourselves as we are: small and poor sinners, but always your children." In his Angelus address earlier in the day, the pope said the feast of the Immaculate Conception can be summarized by the angle Gabriel's greeting to Mary as "full of grace." The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary was conceived and born without original sin. By calling her "full of grace," the angel meant that she "was full of the presence of God," leaving no room in her life for sin, the pope said. "She is the only 'always green oasis' of humanity, the only uncontaminated one, created immaculate so that she could welcome fully, with her 'yes,' God who was coming into the world," Pope Francis said. Mary, he said, came from a small town off the beaten track. "She was not famous. Even when the angel visited her, no one knew. There weren't any reporters there that day." But she spent time reading the Scriptures and praying. "The word of God was her secret; it was close to her heart, and then it became flesh in her womb."
Thu, 07 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A Nativity scene and Christmas tree, like those displayed in St. Peter's Square, are visible reminders of God's benevolence and closeness to all men and women, Pope Francis said. The traditional Christmas displays are "the signs of the heavenly Father's compassion, of his participation and closeness to humanity who experience not being abandoned in dark times, but instead visited and accompanied in their difficulties," the pope said. "Every year, the Christmas Nativity scene and tree speak to us through their symbolic language. They make more visible what is captured in the experience of the birth of the Son of God," Pope Francis said Dec. 7 in a meeting with delegations from Poland and Italy, responsible respectively for the 2017 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene. The centerpiece of the Vatican's Christmas holiday decorations is the towering 92-foot spruce tree. Measuring nearly 33 feet in diameter, the tree was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk, Poland, and transported to the Vatican on a flatbed truck traveling over 1,240 miles across central Europe. Thanking the members of the Polish delegation, the pope said the tree's soaring height "motivates us to reach out 'toward the highest gifts'" and to rise above the clouds to experience "how beautiful and joyful it is to be immersed in the light of Christ." "The tree, which comes from Poland this year, is a sign of the faith of that people who, also with this gesture, wanted to express their fidelity to the see of Peter," the pope said. The Nativity scene was donated by the Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine, located in southern Italy. Created in a traditional 18th-century Neapolitan style, it covers a surface of over 860 square feet and features 20 terracotta figures, some as tall as 6 feet. The representation of the night of Jesus' birth, the pope said, is "inspired by the works of mercy" and is a reminder "that Jesus told us: 'Do to others what you would have them do to you.'" "The crib is the evocative place where we contemplate Jesus who, taking upon himself human misery, invites us to do the same through act of mercy," Pope Francis said. As it was last year, the Christmas tree was adorned with ornaments made by children receiving treatment at several Italian hospitals. "These children, with their parents, participated in a ceramics recreational therapy program" organized by the Countess Lene Thune Foundation for young boys and girls suffering from oncological and hematological disorders, the Vatican said Oct. 25. Additionally, children from the central Italian Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, which was devastated by earthquakes in 2016, also made ornaments for the Christmas tree. Pope Francis thanked the children and told them their ornaments are a personal witness of Jesus "who made himself a child like you to tell you that he loves you." After the Vatican's tree-lighting ceremony later that evening, he added, "pilgrims and visitors from around the world will be able to admire your work." "Tonight, when the lights of the nativity scene are turned on and the Christmas tree lights up, even the wishes you have transmitted through your decorative works will be bright and seen by everyone," he said. The tree will remain in St. Peter's Square until the feast of the Lord's Baptism Jan. 7, the Vatican said.
Wed, 06 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump planned to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis expressed his concern that such a move would further destabilize the Middle East. Pope Francis said he could not "keep silent about my deep concern" for Jerusalem and urged respect for "the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations." The pope spoke at the end of his weekly general audience Dec. 6, the same day Trump announced his decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made the same promises during their campaigns, but once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Trump drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States' long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations. According to Vatican Radio, the pope received a telephone call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Dec. 5 regarding Trump's plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The conversation was "part of a series of contacts made by the president of the Palestinian National Authority after his conversation with Donald Trump during which -- according to Abbas' spokesman -- the U.S. president announced his intention to move the American embassy," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Vatican Radio. The Vatican supports a "two-state solution" for the Holy Land with independence, recognition and secure borders for both Israel and Palestine. At the same time, the Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In his appeal, Pope Francis said, "Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace." Since the early 1990s, the Vatican has seen as separate issues the need for a special status for the city and questions over the political sovereignty or control of Jerusalem. The political question, it has insisted, must be the result of negotiation. The internationally unsettled status of Jerusalem and its central importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians explains why, while recognizing the state of Israel, no nation has its embassy in the holy city. "I pray to the Lord that this identity would be preserved and strengthened for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the whole world and that wisdom and prudence would prevail, to avoid adding new elements of tension in a world already shaken and scarred by many cruel conflicts," the pope said. Before the audience, Pope Francis met with religious leaders from Palestine attending a meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Dialogue, the pope said, takes place at every level, especially "in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society." However, a key condition for dialogue is mutual respect and a commitment to strengthen that respect "for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be," he said. "Dialogue is the source of greater mutual knowledge, greater mutual esteem and cooperation in the pursuit of the common good, and generous cooperation in ensuring that those in need receive all necessary assistance," Pope Francis said.
Tue, 05 Dec 2017
In advocating for the human rights of an oppressed religious community in a volatile political setting, Pope Francis had to strike a careful diplomatic balancing act in his Nov. 26-Dec. 2 trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh. “The presence of God today is also called ‘Rohingya,’” he said, referring to an oppressed Muslim community in Myanmar, after speaking to an interfaith audience in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Dec. 1. Several papal observers believe Pope Francis struck the right tone in defending human dignity, calling for the peaceful coexistence of all religious minorities and showing solidarity with the oppressed Rohingya peoples without further endangering them. Fraught politics “Like a doctor, a pastor should do no harm,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace. 'Let Us Not Close Our Hearts' Upon meeting Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh on Dec. 1, Pope Francis said: “Let us only make the world see what the world’s selfishness is doing with the image of God. Let us continue to do good for them, to help them. Let us continue to work actively for the recognition of their rights. Let us not close our hearts, or look the other way. The presence of God, today, is also called ‘Rohingya.’ May each of us respond in his or her own way.” Colecchi told Our Sunday Visitor that it was especially important for Pope Francis, as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, to listen to the Church leaders in Myanmar who had advised the pope before his late November trip to not say the word “Rohingya,” a politically charged term that Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders do not recognize. “They did not want something to be so explosive that it would have caused harm within the country and perhaps to the Rohingya themselves, as well as to the Christian minority, which has suffered also,” Colecchi said. The Rohingya, a beleaguered Muslim minority in Myanmar’s poor western Rakhine State, have been targeted by the country’s military and Buddhist radicals in a campaign of killing, rape and arson. As more than 600,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August, the Rohingya’s plight has spiraled into one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises. Refugees have been arriving in Bangladesh “hungry, exhausted and depleted of any resources. Many have lost loved ones, including children, in the violence. Their escape often involved fleeing a direct attack, watching their houses burn, hiding in the brush as they walked over several days, and going without food,” said Deepti Pant, a Catholic Relief Services country manager stationed in Bangladesh. The crisis escalated in late August after a new outbreak of fighting began between Myanmar’s military and armed militants in Rakhine State. Myanmar’s government and Buddhist majority view the Rohingya as interlopers from Bangladesh, not as true citizens, and do not even acknowledge the word “Rohingya.” Other ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar, formerly Burma, also have suffered greatly, including Catholics. Church leaders in Myanmar feared that if the pope spoke out too strongly on the Rohingya, it would provoke a backlash that could set back efforts to secure the minorities’ rights in that country. “Sometimes, it’s important for us to use quiet diplomacy. Sometimes, it’s important to use public diplomacy. Sometimes, the tone matters a great deal,” Colecchi said. “There are some situations where it would do more harm than good to do what activists might want you to do in a given situation.” Implicit and explicit In Myanmar, Pope Francis never uttered the word “Rohingya.” He met with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, and the civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a former Nobel Peace Prize winner whose international standing has plummeted amidst the crackdown in Rakhine State. In his public comments in Myanmar, the pope called for tolerance, peace and forgiveness. ...
Mon, 04 Dec 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Men and women contemplating a vocation to the priesthood, consecrated life or marriage should not be afraid because God wants only for them to experience the joy that comes from serving others, Pope Francis said. "Our slowness and our sloth" should not delay a response and Christians need not be "fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord," the pope said in his message for the 2018 World Day of Prayer for Vocations. "It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision," the pope wrote. "Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now!" The papal message for the day of prayer, which will be observed April 22, was released Dec. 4 at the Vatican. The 2018 theme is "Listening, discerning and living the Lord's call." In his message, Pope Francis said God's call "is not as clear-cut as any of those things we can hear, see or touch in our daily experiences" because God "comes silently and discreetly, without imposing on our freedom." Christians, he said, must learn to listen carefully and "view things with the eyes of faith" in order to listen to his voice which is "drowned out by the many worries and concerns that fill our minds and hearts." "We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world," the pope said. Listening is increasingly difficult in today's society, which is "overstimulated and bombarded by information" and "prevents us from pausing and enjoying the taste of contemplation" and discerning God's plan, he said. Often stifled by "the temptations of ideology and negativity," he said, Christians need spiritual discernment which allows them to "discover the places, the means and situations through which" God's calls them. "Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to 'read within' his or her life and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission," Pope Francis said. He also urged men and women to live out their calling once it is discovered and "become a witness of the Lord here and now," whether in marriage or priesthood or consecrated life. "If (God) lets us realize that he is calling us to consecrate ourselves totally to his kingdom, then we should have no fear!" Pope Francis said. "It is beautiful -- and a great grace," he said, "to be completely and forever consecrated to God and the service of our brothers and sisters."
Mon, 04 Dec 2017
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM BANGLADESH (CNS) -- Well aware he was disappointing some people by not using the word "Rohingya" publicly in Myanmar, Pope Francis said his chief concern had been to get a point across, and he did. "If I would have used the word, the door would have closed," he told reporters Dec. 2 during his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome. He spent almost an hour answering reporters' questions after his six-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, but insisted that most of the questions be about the trip. In his speeches in Myanmar, Pope Francis repeatedly referred to the obligation to defend the lives and human rights of all people. But he did not specifically mention the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Rakhine state. The Myanmar military, claiming it is cracking down on militants, has been accused of a massive persecution of the Rohingya to the point that some describe it as "ethnic cleansing." More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled across the Bangladeshi border just since August, joining hundreds of thousands already living in refugee camps there. For the government of Myanmar, the Rohingya do not exist; instead they are considered undocumented immigrants. "I knew that if, in an official speech, I would have used the word, they would close the door in my face," the pope told reporters who asked why he did not name the group. However, "I described the situation" publicly, knowing "I could go further in the private meetings" with government officials. "I was very, very satisfied with the meetings," the pope said. "I dared to say everything I wanted to say." It is true, he said, "I did not have the pleasure" of making "a public denunciation, but I had the satisfaction of dialoguing, allowing the other to have his say and, in that way, the message got across." Still, finally being able to meet some of the Rohingya refugees Dec. 1 in Bangladesh was an emotional moment. Arrangements were made for 16 refugees to travel to Dhaka from Cox's Bazar, where the huge refugee camps are, so they could join the pope and Bangladeshi religious leaders for a meeting devoted to peace. The refugees had traveled so far and been through so much that Pope Francis said he could not just let them shake his hand and be whisked away, as some event organizers seemed to think was proper. "And there I got upset. I yelled a bit. I'm a sinner," he said. He had a few minutes with each of them, listening to their stories with the help of an interpreter, holding their hands and looking into their eyes. "I was crying, but tried to hide it," the pope told reporters. "They were crying, too." Listening to them was emotional, he said, and "I couldn't let them leave without saying something" to them. So he asked for a microphone and spoke about their God-given dignity and the obligation believers of all faiths have to stand up for them as brothers and sisters. He also apologized for all they had suffered. Pope Francis refused to give reporters details about his private meetings with government officials and military leaders in Myanmar, but insisted they were marked by "civilized dialogue" and he was able to make the points important to him. The pope was asked what he thought of recent criticism by human rights groups of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar's civilian government, over her handling of the Rohingya crisis. Pope Francis responded that people must take into account the challenges that are part of Myanmar's transition from military rule to democracy. Myanmar is at a "turning point" where it will be difficult to move forward, he said, but it also would be difficult to back away from change. And, he said, "I never lose hope." The same God who made the meeting with the Rohingya in Dhaka possible will continue to work marvels, Pope Francis said.
Fri, 01 Dec 2017
DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNS) -- Each human being is created in the image and likeness of God, yet so often people desecrate that image with violence as seen in the treatment of Myanmar's Rohingya minority, Pope Francis said. "Today, the presence of God is also called 'Rohingya,'" the pope said Dec. 1 after meeting, clasping hands with and listening intently to 16 Rohingya who have found shelter in Bangladesh. "They, too, are images of the living God," Pope Francis told a gathering of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu leaders gathered in Dhaka for an interreligious meeting for peace. "Dear brothers and sisters," he told the crowd, "let us show the world what its selfishness is doing to the image of God." "Let's keeping helping" the Rohingya, he said. "Let's continue working so their rights are recognized. Let's not close our hearts. Let's not look away." The Rohingya, like all people, are created in God's image, the pope insisted. "Each of us must respond." The refugees traveled to Dhaka from Cox's Bazar, the southern Bangladeshi city hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled Myanmar. More than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed the border into Bangladesh since late August. Speaking directly to them, Pope Francis said, "We are all close to you." In comparison to the suffering the Rohingya have endured, he said, the response of the people at the gathering actually is small. "But we make room for you in our hearts." "In the name of all those who have persecuted you and have done you harm, I ask forgiveness," he said. Pope Francis' remarks, which he made in Italian, were translated for the crowd and for the Rohingya. Many of them were in tears. In his formal speech at the interreligious meeting, Pope Francis insisted "mere tolerance" for people of other religions or ethnic groups was not enough to create a society where everyone's rights are respected and peace reigns. Believers must "reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding," not ignoring differences, but seeing them as "a potential source of enrichment and growth." The "openness of heart" to which believers of all faiths are called includes "the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity," he said. "It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors." Pope Francis urged the people of Bangladesh to make openness, acceptance and cooperation the "beating heart" of their nation. Such attitudes, he said, are the only antidote to corruption, "destructive religious ideologies and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities and those who are most vulnerable." According to a Vatican translation, Farid Uddin Masud, speaking for the Muslim community, told the pope, "it is compassion and love which today's world needs most. The only remedy and solution to the problem of malice, envy and fighting among nations, races and creeds lies in the compassionate love preached and practiced by the great men and women of the world." Masud, a famous prayer leader and advocate of dialogue and tolerance, is thought by some to have been the main target of a 2016 bombing at a major Muslim prayer service in Sholakia, Bangladesh. Four people were killed. Praising the pope for speaking on behalf of "the oppressed, irrespective of religion, caste and nationality," Masud particularly cited Pope Francis' concern for the Rohingya. He said he hoped that the pope's public support would strengthen international efforts to defend their rights. Anisuzzaman, a famous professor of Bengali literature, told the gathering that in a world torn by strife, the pope's message of encounter and dialogue takes on added importance. "Those of us who are frustrated to find the forces of hatred and cruelty overtaking those of love and compassion can surely find solace in the pope's message of peace and harmony and of fraternity and goodwill," he said, according to the Vatican's translation of his speech. "We note with great relief that the pope has, time and again, ...
Tue, 28 Nov 2017
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Second Vatican Council continues to have an enduring impact on the Catholic Church and on the papacy of Pope Francis, according to the Vatican's top diplomat, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. That gathering of bishops from around the world presented a new paradigm of a "world church -- a church with a global dimension," said the cardinal, who is the Vatican's secretary of state. During a mid-November visit to the United States that included celebrating a Mass in Baltimore to mark the centenary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Parolin stopped in Washington to deliver an address at The Catholic University of America. He spoke on the topic "The Council: A Prophecy That Continues With Pope Francis." Afterward, he received a received an honorary doctorate in theology from the university. In his Nov. 14 talk, he said that although Vatican II occurred more than 50 years ago (1962-65), "it certainly retains for the church a prophetic character." Cardinal Parolin said the main consequences of the council included the introduction of local languages in the liturgy, and a "new awareness of a church that is historically realized in more diverse cultural contexts." Noting themes that have been stressed by Pope Francis, the cardinal said Vatican II sowed seeds of synodality and paved the way for "a church that lives in a conciliar way" with collaborative and consultative efforts underway at every level of the church. "No more parishes or dioceses without pastoral councils, no more countries without episcopal conferences," he said. That process, he added, has proven to be irreversible. "In the end, is this not the most beautiful inheritance that the council could have prepared for us?" he asked. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Catholic University's chancellor, offered an invocation and then introduced Cardinal Parolin. He noted the prelate is known as an expert in Mideast affairs who was responsible for efforts bringing Israelis and Palestinians together for peace talks. In Asia, Cardinal Parolin also was instrumental in efforts to build up ties between the Vatican and Vietnam, Cardinal Wuerl said. "In this whole process, Cardinal Parolin has always been able to put the face of the church and the face of Christ's love into diplomatic action," Cardinal Wuerl said. Cardinal Parolin spoke to the Catholic University audience in Italian, while a translation in English appeared on video screens via closed captioning. Those in attendance included university administrators, faculty members and students. Guests included Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. In his remarks, Cardinal Parolin underscored the importance of four key Vatican II documents: "Sacrosanctum Concilium," the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963); "Lumen Gentium," the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964); "Dei Verbum," the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation (1965); and "Gaudium et Spes," the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (1965). The cardinal noted that from the council's conclusion and then throughout his pontificate, Blessed Paul VI "dedicated himself to focusing on the inheritance of the council, to illustrate the richness of the teachings," using the "image of a river which flows nourishing itself from its source," reaching generation to generation, in "new lands and new situations." Quoting Pope Francis' 2013 interview with La Civilta Cattolica, the Jesuit Italian-language magazine, the cardinal pointed out that the pope said: "Vatican II was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture. Vatican II produced a renewal movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are enormous." The image of the people of God in "Lumen Gentium," the cardinal added, shaped the themes that Pope Francis emphasized in his 2013 apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"). In that document, the pontiff pointed out how the faith ...
Mon, 27 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A diocesan bishop is the sole judge in the streamlined process for handling marriage annulments, Pope Francis said. The simplified process "is not an option that the diocesan bishop can choose, but rather an obligation that derives from his consecration and from the mission received," making the bishop the sole and exclusive authority in charge throughout the three phases of the briefer process, the pope said. The pope made his remarks during an audience Nov. 25 with canon lawyers, priests and pastoral workers attending a course sponsored by the Roman Rota, a Vatican tribunal that mainly deals with marriage annulment cases. The pope encouraged them to be close to those who are suffering and who expect help "to restore peace to their consciences and God's will on readmission to the Eucharist." The new process "is an expression of the church that is able to welcome and care for those who are wounded in various ways by life and, at the same time, it is an appeal for the defense of the sacredness of the marriage bond," he said. Pope Francis used the occasion to clarify and strongly emphasize how a bishop should not delegate completely the duty of deciding marriage cases to the offices of his curia, especially in the streamlined process for handling cases of clear nullity that were established with new norms that took effect at the end of 2015. The norms were outlined in two papal documents, "Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus" ("The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge") for the Latin-rite church and "Mitis et misericors Iesus," ("The Meek and Merciful Jesus") for the Eastern Catholic churches. Pointing out the clear role of the diocesan bishop as sole judge in the briefer process was meant to help apply the new laws and increasingly recover an appropriate practice of synodality, he said. The diocesan bishop has always been charged with exercising judicial power personally or through others; but, the pope said, that principle has been interpreted in such a way that the bishop no longer personally exercises that power and delegates "almost everything to the tribunals." Given the unique nature of the abbreviated process in determining the nullity of marriages, the pope set out a number of points that he deemed to be "decisive and exclusive in the personal exercise of the role of judge by the diocesan bishop." The abbreviated process was instituted not to facilitate annulments, but to simplify and speed up the processes necessary to determine and declare the truth about the nullity of a marriage, in other words, declaring that it never existed as a valid sacrament. The changes, the pope wrote in 2015, were motivated by "concern for the salvation of souls," and particularly "charity and mercy" toward those who feel alienated from the church because of their marriage situations and the perceived complexity of the church's annulment process.
Wed, 22 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- If people really understood that participating at Mass is witnessing Christ's suffering, death and resurrection, then maybe they would stop taking pictures, talking, making comments and acting as if it were some kind of show, Pope Francis said. "This is Mass: to enter into Jesus' passion, death, resurrection and ascension. When we go to Mass, it is as if we were going to Calvary, it's the same," the pope said Nov. 22 during his weekly general audience. If people realize that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and is letting himself be broken and pouring out his love and mercy for everyone, "would we allow ourselves to chitchat, take pictures, to be on show? No," the pope said. "For sure we would be silent, in mourning and also in joy for being saved," he said. The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on what Mass really is and why it is so important. The Mass, as a "memorial," is more than just remembering an event from the past, the pope said. It is making that event present and alive in a way that transforms those who participate. The Eucharist is the focal point of God's saving act, he said; it is Jesus making himself present in the bread, "broken for us, pouring out all of his mercy and love on us like he did on the cross, in that way, renewing our hearts, our lives and the way we relate to him and our brothers and sisters." "Every celebration of the Eucharist is a beam of that sun that never sets, which is the risen Jesus Christ. To take part in Mass, especially on Sundays, means entering into the victory of the resurrection, being illuminated by his light, warmed by his heat," he said. Mass is "the triumph of Jesus." As Jesus goes from death to eternal life during the Mass celebration, he is seeking also to "carry us with him" toward eternal life, Pope Francis said. By spilling his blood, the pope continued, "he frees us from death and the fear of death. He frees us not only from the domination of physical death but also spiritual death -- evil and sin," which pollute one's life, making it lose its beauty, vitality and meaning. "In the Eucharist, (Jesus) wants to transmit his paschal, victorious love," the pope said. "If we receive it with faith, we too can truly love God and our neighbor, we can love like he loved us, giving life." When people experience the power of Christ's love within them, then they can give themselves freely and fully to others, even their enemies, without fear, he said.
Tue, 21 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he would travel to Bangladesh to proclaim the Gospel message of "reconciliation, forgiveness and peace," and he said he was especially looking forward to a meeting with the nation's religious leaders. "We are living at a time when religious believers and people of goodwill everywhere are called to foster mutual understanding and respect and to support each other as members of our one human family," the pope said in a video message to the people of Bangladesh. "I especially look forward to meeting religious leaders," he said in the video, which was released at the Vatican Nov. 21. Pope Francis is scheduled to leave Rome Nov. 26 for a visit to Myanmar Nov. 27-30 and Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2. What the Vatican described as an "interreligious and ecumenical meeting for peace" is scheduled for Dec. 1 in the garden of the archbishop's residence in Dhaka's Ramna neighborhood . The vast majority -- some 90 percent -- of Bangladesh's people are Muslim. The largest minority group is made up of Hindus. Christians are about 1 percent of the population. The ecumenical National Council of Churches in Bangladesh includes 13 Christian denominations; although the Catholic Church is not a member, it has a strong working relationship with the council.
Mon, 20 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People have a basic choice in the way they live: either striving to build up treasures on earth or giving to others in order to gain heaven, Pope Francis said. "What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes," the pope said in his homily Nov. 19, the first World Day of the Poor. Between 6,000 and 7,000 poor people attended the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica as special guests, the Vatican said. While almost all of them live in Europe, they include migrants and refugees from all over the world. Among the altar servers were young men who are either poor, migrants or homeless. The first reader at the Mass, Tony Battah, is a refugee from Syria. Those presenting the gifts at the offertory were led by the Zambardi family from Turin, whom the Vatican described as living in a "precarious condition" and whose 1-year-old daughter has cystic fibrosis. In addition to the bread and wine that were consecrated at the Mass, the offertory included a large basket of bread and rolls that were blessed to be shared at the lunch the pope was offering after Mass. Some 1,500 poor people joined the pope in the Vatican's audience hall for the meal, while the other special guests were served at the Pontifical North American College -- the U.S. seminary in Rome -- and other seminaries and Catholic-run soup kitchens nearby. Preaching about the Gospel "parable of the talents" (Mt 25:14-30), Pope Francis said the servant in the story who buried his master's money was rebuked not because he did something wrong, but because he failed to do something good with what he was given. "All too often, we have the idea that we haven't done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just," the pope said. "But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans." If in the eyes of the world, the poor they have little value, he said, "they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our 'passport to paradise.' For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God's word, which is addressed first to them." Where the poor are concerned, the pope said, too many people are often guilty of a sin of omission or indifference. Thinking it is "society's problem" to solve, looking the other way when passing a beggar or changing the channel when the news shows something disturbing are not Christian responses, he said. "God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation," he said, "but whether we did some good." People please God in a similar way to how they please anyone they love. They learn what that person likes and gives that to him or her, the pope said. In the Gospels, he said, Jesus says that he wants to be loved in "the least of our brethren," including the hungry, the sick, the poor, the stranger and the prisoner. "In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love," he said. True goodness and strength are shown "not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord." Before joining his guests for lunch, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with thousands of people in St. Peter's Square. The previous day in Detroit, he told the people, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey was beatified. "A humble and faithful disciple of Christ, he was known for his untiring service to the poor. May his witness help priests, religious and laypeople live with joy the bond between the proclamation of the Gospel and love for the poor." Pope Francis told the crowd that he hoped "the poor would be at the center of our communities not only at times like this, but always, because they are at the heart of the Gospel. In them, we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and calls us through their suffering and their needs." Offering ...
Wed, 15 Nov 2017
Pope Francis is acting on his own call that the Church go out to the peripheries with his visits to Myanmar (formerly Burma) from Nov. 27-30 and to Bangladesh from Nov. 30–Dec. 2. In both places he will find Catholic communities that are not only poor, but are small minorities in countries faced with new problems. His visit likely will encourage the Catholic communities, but what impact he will have on the hosting governments remains to be seen. More than once he has deplored the “persecution of ... our Muslim brothers,” meaning the Rohingya people who are fleeing from Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh. Reportedly over half a million of the 1.1 million Rohingya have crossed the border, which creates problems for Bangladesh. Many are in overcrowded refugee camps. Plight of the Rohingya By the Numbers Bangladesh ◗ Archdioceses: 2 ◗ Dioceses: 6 ◗ Parishes: 102 ◗ Priests: 373 Myanmar ◗ Archdioceses: 3 ◗ Dioceses: 13 ◗ Parishes: 356 ◗ Priests: 793 Source: 2016 Catholic Almanac In Myanmar, 135 different ethnic groups are recognized, but the Rohingya are not among them. They are a people without a state. They claim they have always lived where they are, whereas Myanmar nationalists say they are intruders from Bangladesh. They are mainly Muslims who always have been disadvantaged in Myanmar, where 75 percent are Buddhists. For almost 50 years, until 2015, Myanmar was ruled by a military dictatorship. For more than a decade, the leading opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991, was kept under house arrest, but in 2015 political parties were allowed to contest a credible election, and her party won. She has a role corresponding to that of prime minister, and she has promised an inclusive society. However, an attack by Rohingya militants in October on a police station in which nine police were killed led to reprisals and the mass migration to Bangladesh. Aung San Suu Kyi has downplayed the situation, denying that there is ethnic cleaning, an attitude that has disappointed many former admirers in and out of Myanmar. Leaders in Myanmar The archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, who was made a cardinal in 2016, has deplored the anti-Rohingya violence and called for an independent enquiry by the United Nations, but he also stressed that Aung San Suu Kyi should not be written off because the difficult process of democratizing Myanmar depends on her. Cardinal Bo, a 68-year-old Salesian, is aware that the military are assigned three crucial ministries and could put an end to the fragile democracy at any moment. Moreover, some Buddhist monks founded a Movement for the Protection of Race and Religion, which promotes that idea that the true Burmese are Buddhists. The movement is accused of spreading hatred and violence and has links with the main parliamentary opposition party. As well as meeting state, civic and political leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi, the bishops of the 16 dioceses and the faithful at a Mass in a Yangon park, Pope Francis is to meet the government-appointed ruling committee of Buddhist monks. The Rohingya, who are Muslims, are not the only disadvantaged minority in Burma. Christians make up slightly more than 8 percent of the population of 53 million (Muslims around 4 percent and Hindus around 2 percent). Most of the Christians are found in two regions, Chin and Kachin, where some of their churches have been attacked by the military. And the Catholic schools throughout Burma, which were confiscated by the military, have yet to be returned to the Church. If Pope Francis adheres to Cardinal Bo’s approach, he will speak out for human and religious rights and encourage leaders to make Myanmar a peaceful place for all. Issues in Bangladesh Pope Francis will find a different threat to Christian and other minorities in Bangladesh. When the British abandoned control of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, they divided it between India, with a Hindu majority, and Pakistan, with Muslim ...
Tue, 14 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During his visit to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis will honor the country's religious roots and underline the plight of indigenous men and women. The Vatican said Pope Francis will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He then will fly to Peru and, from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. In Chile, the pope will meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community in the Araucania region. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s. He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity. A special gathering of the Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon region will take place in Rome in October 2019. The synod, he said, would seek to identify new paths of evangelization, especially for indigenous people who are "often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, including because of the crisis of the Amazon forest," which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet. The Peru-Chile trip will be Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope. Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. Times listed are local, with Eastern Standard Time in parenthesis when it is different from local time: Monday, Jan. 15 (Rome, Santiago) -- 8 a.m. (2 a.m.) Departure from Rome's Fiumicino airport. -- 8:10 p.m. (6:10 p.m.) Arrival at Santiago International Airport. Welcoming ceremony. -- 9 p.m. (7 p.m.) Arrival at the apostolic nunciature. Tuesday, Jan. 16 (Santiago) -- 8:20 a.m. (6:20 a.m.) Meeting with government authorities, members of civil society and the diplomatic corps at La Moneda presidential palace. -- 9 a.m. (7 a.m.) Courtesy visit to Michelle Bachelet, president of the republic, at the presidential palace. -- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at O'Higgins Park. Homily by pope. -- 4 p.m. (2 p.m.) Brief visit to the women's prison center in Santiago. Greeting by pope. -- 5:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.) Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices at the cathedral of Santiago. Speech by pope. -- 6:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m.) Meeting with Chile's bishops in the cathedral's sacristy. -- 7:15 p.m. (5:15 p.m.) Visit to the shrine of St. Alberto Hurtado. Private meeting with Jesuit priests. Wednesday, Jan. 17 (Santiago, Temuco, Santiago) -- 8 a.m. (6 a.m.) Departure by plane for Temuco. -- 10:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.) Mass at Maquehue Airport. Homily by pope. -- 12:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) Lunch with indigenous residents of the Araucania region in the "Madre de la Santa Cruz" house. -- 3:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.) Departure by plane for Santiago. -- 5 p.m. (3 p.m.) Arrival in Santiago. -- 5:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.) Meeting with young people at the Shrine of Maipu. Speech by pope. -- 7 p.m. (5 p.m.) Visit to the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Speech by pope. Thursday, Jan. 18 (Santiago, Iquique, Lima) -- 8:05 a.m. (6:05 a.m.) Departure by plane for Iquique. -- 10:35 a.m. (8:35 a.m.) Arrival at Iquique International Airport. -- 11:30 a.m. (9:30 a.m.) Mass at Lobito beach. Homily by pope. -- 2 p.m. (12 p.m.) Lunch at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes retreat house. -- 4:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.) Departure ceremony at the Iquique international airport. -- 5:05 p.m. (3:05 p.m.) Departure by plane for Lima. -- 5:20 p.m. Arrival at the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Welcoming ceremony. Friday, Jan. 19 (Lima, Puerto Maldonado, Lima) -- 8:30 a.m. Meeting with government ...
Mon, 13 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Marriage and family life are blessings for individuals and for society, but both are filled with difficult choices that Catholic couples must be helped to face prayerfully and in the light of their consciences, Pope Francis said. Unfortunately, too many people today confuse a rightly formed conscience with personal preferences dominated by selfishness, the pope said in a video message to an Italian meeting on "Amoris Laetitia," his exhortation on the family. "The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual" even when the individual's decisions impact his or her marriage and family life, the pope said. Repeating a remark he had made to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis said, "There are those who even speak of 'egolatry,' that is, the true worship of the ego on whose altar everything, including the dearest affections, are sacrificed." Confusing conscience with selfishness "is not harmless," the pope said. "This is a 'pollution' that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions." The conference sponsored by the Italian bishops' conference was focused on "conscience and norm" in Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation. Diagnosing problems in the church's outreach to married couples and families, Pope Francis had written, "We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life." "We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who very often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations," he wrote in "Amoris Laetitia." "We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them." In his message to the meeting Nov. 11 in Rome, Pope Francis said the Catholic Church must strengthen its programs "to respond to the desire for family that emerges in the soul of the young generations" and to help couples once they are married. "Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality," he said. Marriage and family life are "the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant," he said, but it does not do one any good to pretend that marriage and family life are free from situations requiring difficult choices. "In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each," he said. "It is important that spouses, parents, not be left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life." Conscience, he said, always has God's desire for the human person as its ultimate reference point. "In the very depths of each one of us, there is a place wherein the 'Mystery' reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story," he said. "Conscience, as the Second Vatican Council recalls, is this 'most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths.'" Each Christian, the pope said, must be "vigilant so that in this kind of tabernacle there is no lack of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and the parental mission."
Thu, 09 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Concerned by the damage caused by smoking, Pope Francis has banned the sale of cigarettes in Vatican City State. Starting in 2018, the Vatican "will cease to sell cigarettes to employees," Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said in a Nov. 9 statement. "The reason is very simple: The Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people," he said. "According to the World Health Organization, every year smoking is the cause of more than seven million deaths throughout the world." The Vatican used to be known as a safe haven for cigarette smokers. That changed dramatically in 2002, when Vatican City prohibited smoking in offices and public places. However, cigarettes continued to be sold to current and retired personnel at the Vatican. Even after the cigarette ban goes into effect, the Vatican will continue discount sales of gasoline, groceries and other goods to employees and retirees. Nevertheless, while cigarette sales "are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk," Burke said. On a moral level, the church has never defined smoking as a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the gift of physical health requires "reasonable care" of the body, and more specifically says: "The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine."
Thu, 09 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis recognized that Pope John Paul I, who served only 33 days as pope, lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way. The Vatican announced Pope Francis' decision Nov. 9. It marks the first major step on the path to sainthood for the pope who died in 1978 at the age of 65, shocking the world and a church that had just mourned the death of Blessed Paul VI. Pope Francis would have to recognize a miracle attributed to the late pope's intercession in order for him to be beatified, the next step toward sainthood. A second miracle would be needed for canonization. Stefania Falasca, vice postulator of Pope John Paul's sainthood cause, said one "presumed extraordinary healing" had already been investigated by a diocese and a second possibility is being studied, but the Vatican does not begin its investigations until a sainthood candidate is declared venerable. Although his was one of the shortest papacies in history, Pope John Paul left a lasting impression on the church that fondly remembers him as "the smiling pope." "He smiled for only 33 days," read the front page of the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera, while the Catholic Telegraph of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati reported: "Saddened church seeking another Pope John Paul." The surprise of his death after just over a month in office opened a floodgate of rumors and conspiracy theories, running the gamut from murder to culpable neglect. The Vatican doctor insisted then, as the Vatican continues to insist, that Pope John Paul died of a heart attack. His papal motto, "Humilitas" ("Humility") not only emphasized a Christian virtue but also reflected his down-to-earth personality and humble beginnings. "The Lord recommended it so much: Be humble. Even if you have done great things, say: 'We are useless servants.' On the contrary, the tendency in all of us is rather the opposite: to show off. Lowly, lowly: This is the Christian virtue which concerns us," he said Sept. 6, 1978. Born Albino Luciani in the small Italian mountain town of Canale D'Agordo Oct. 17, 1912, the future pope and his two brothers and one sister lived in poverty and sometimes went to bed hungry. His father, a bricklayer by trade, would often travel to Switzerland and Germany in search of work. During a general audience Sept. 13, 1978, the pope told pilgrims he was sickly as a child and his mother would take him "from one doctor to another" and watch over him "whole nights." He also said he had been hospitalized eight times and operated on four times throughout his life. Despite his weak health and poverty, his father encouraged him to enter the minor seminary. He did so, but would return to his hometown in the summers and often was seen working in the fields in his black cassock. He was ordained a priest in 1935 and was appointed bishop of Vittorio Veneto in December 1958 by St. John XXIII. More than 10 years later, he was named patriarch of Venice by Blessed Paul VI and was created a cardinal in 1973. During his time as patriarch of Venice, then-Cardinal Luciani was known for his dedication to the poor and the disabled. In February 1976, he called on all priests in his diocese to sell gold and silver objects for the Don Orione Day Center for people with disabilities. Leading by example, he started the fund drive by putting up for auction a pectoral cross and gold chain -- given to him by St. John XXIII -- that had once belonged to Pope Pius XII. His contribution, he wrote, "is a small thing compared to the use it will have. Perhaps it is worth something if it helps people understand that the real treasures of the church are the poor." After Blessed Paul VI's death, his name was hardly at the top of anyone's list of potential popes, least of all his own. When asked if he might be elected pope, he quoted a Venetian proverb: "You don't make gnocchi out of this dough." His surprise election, nevertheless, did not sway him from continuing his humble manner of living, such as rejecting ...
Tue, 07 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After 7-year-old Rani Hong was stolen from her mother in a small village in India and sold into slavery, her captors kept her in a cage to teach her to submit completely to her "master." "This is what the industry of human trafficking does," she said; it is an industry of buying and selling human beings for forced labor, prostitution, exploitation and even harvesting organs. The International Labor Organization estimates human trafficking grosses $150 billion a year and is rapidly growing, with profits beginning to match those made in the illegal drug and arms trades. Human beings are highly lucrative, Hong said, because a drug sold on the street can only be used once, while a person can be used and sold over and over again. One human rights group estimates traffickers can make $100,000 a year for each woman working as a sex slave, representing a return on investment of up to 1,000 percent. Hong and others spoke to reporters at the Vatican Nov. 6 during a conference on ways to better assist victims of trafficking in terms of legal assistance, compensation and resettlement. The Nov. 4-6 gathering was organized by the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and Global Alliance for Legal Aid, a U.S.-based association of jurists providing legal aid to the poor in developing countries. Hong eventually found freedom, she said, but it came only after she became so sick and weak that her owner sold her to an international adoption agency. She ended up with her adoptive mother in Canada and then the United States. While her adoptive mother helped her, the trauma of her past hindered her future -- leading her to not easily trust or communicate with people, she said. Today, along with her husband, who, as a child ended up shipwrecked on a remote island for two years after escaping forced inscription in Vietnam, she leads the nonprofit Tronie Foundation to serve survivors and help them join the fight against trafficking. The success stories and tragedies of victims and survivors offer the next clue in an effective fight against traffickers and in helping those who get caught in their snares, said Margaret Archer, president of the pontifical academy. In the process of criminalizing, tracking down and penalizing traffickers over the years, "victims got almost left out except as numbers" and their true needs overlooked, Archer said. The three-day meeting at the Vatican, she said, was meant to come up with a "victims' charter," that is, very concrete proposals gleaned from victims and their advocates to act as a sort of framework for prevention, healing and resettlement. This is why survivors were part of the conference, Archer wrote in the conference booklet, to "pinpoint what we did that deterred their progress toward the life they sought and what we did -– besides providing bed and board –- that was experienced by them as life-enhancing." When it comes to rescuing and helping resettle victims of trafficking, she said, "there's a lot of rhetoric about empowerment, giving voice ... which don't really get (survivors) very far in paying the rent, buying the food, finding schools for the children." One idea, she said, is mobilize the power of Catholic parishes around the world in helping those who have been trafficked. Hong said no country is immune to human trafficking and educating the public is critical for bringing awareness and stemming demand for forced labor. "Slavery was never abolished. It's found new forms in new places" and everyone can play a part in stopping this crime, said John McEldowney, a professor of law at the University of Warwick, England.
Fri, 03 Nov 2017
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than two years before the first atomic bomb was dropped, Pope Pius XII warned of the "catastrophic" consequences that could come from using the discovery of nuclear fission to create weapons. Addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in February 1943, Pope Pius noted that scientists were saying that nuclear technology could produce "an amount of energy that could take the place of all the large electrical power plants of the whole world." But, he said, it was essential to ensure the technology was used only for peaceful purposes, "because otherwise the consequence could be catastrophic, not only in itself but for the whole planet." After the United States used atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, Pope Pius described the nuclear bomb as "the most terrible weapon that the human mind has ever conceived." For more than 70 years, the popes and Catholic leaders around the globe have echoed that judgment. And while, for a time, the policy of nuclear deterrence was seen as morally acceptable as long as efforts continued for a complete ban of the weapons, today that is no longer the case. "Nuclear deterrence is increasingly seen as an excuse for the permanent possession of nuclear arsenals that threaten humanity's future," Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. bishops' Office of International Justice and Peace, wrote in a 2016 article for the blog of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. Colecchi is scheduled to participate in a high-level Vatican meeting Nov. 10-11 on "Perspectives for a world free from nuclear weapons and for integral disarmament." The conference, sponsored by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, will bring together Nobel laureates, government and U.N. officials, theologians and peace activists to strategize ways to move the disarmament process forward. Given that the conference is being held at a time of severely heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea, several Italian media outlets described the Vatican meeting as Pope Francis' attempt to mediate the U.S.-North Korean crisis. Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said Oct. 30 that while Pope Francis "works with determination to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons," it is "false to speak of a mediation on the part of the Holy See." Coincidentally though, the Vatican conference will take place as U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. North Korea's ongoing missile testing program, and Trump's tough talk about destroying the nation, are expected to top the agenda of the Nov. 3-14 trip. Following in Pope Pius' footsteps, every pope in the "nuclear age" has pleaded with the world's powers to lessen the threat of nuclear war and reduce nuclear arsenals. St. John XXIII, in his 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris," wrote: "Justice, right reason and the recognition of man's dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round and simultaneously by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned." In his historic address to the United Nations in 1965, Blessed Paul VI told global leaders, "It is hard to foresee the future, but easy to assert that the world has to set out resolutely on the path toward a new history, a peaceful history, one that will be truly and fully human, the one that God promised to men of goodwill. The pathways are marked out before you, and the first one is disarmament." Thirteen years later, Pope Paul sent a message to the first U.N. conference on disarmament. In it, he acknowledged that, for government leaders, who have an obligation to protect their people, "the temptation is strong to ask oneself if the best possible protection for peace does not in fact continue to be ensured, basically, by the old system of the ...
Thu, 02 Nov 2017
NETTUNO, Italy (CNS) -- "No more, Lord, no more (war)" that shatters dreams and destroys lives, bringing a cold, cruel winter instead of some sought-after spring, Pope Francis said looking out at the people gathered for an outdoor Mass at a U.S. war memorial and cemetery. "This is the fruit of war: death," he said, as the bright Italian sun lowered in the sky on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2. On a day the church offers special prayers for the faithful departed with the hope of their meeting God in heaven, "here in this place, we pray in a special way for these young people," he said, gesturing toward the rows of thousands of graves. Christian hope can spring from great pain and suffering, he said, but it can also "make us look to heaven and say, 'I believe in my Lord, the redeemer, but stop, Lord," please, no more war, he said. "With war, you lose everything," he said. Before the Mass, Pope Francis placed a white rose atop 10 white marble headstones; the majority of the stones were carved crosses, one was in the shape of the Jewish Star of David. As he slowly walked alone over the green lawn and prayed among the thousands of simple grave markers, visitors recited the rosary at the World War II Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial site in Nettuno, a small coastal city south of Rome. In previous years, the pope marked All Souls' Day by visiting a Rome cemetery. This year, he chose to visit a U.S. military burial ground and, later in the day, the site of a Nazi massacre at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome to pray especially for all victims of war and violence. "Wars produce nothing other than cemeteries and death," he said after reciting the Angelus on All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. He explained he would visit the two World War II sites the next day because humanity "seems to have not learned that lesson or doesn't want to learn it." In his homily at the late afternoon Mass Nov. 2, Pope Francis spoke off-the-cuff and said people do everything to go to war, but they end up doing nothing but destroying themselves. "This is war: the destruction of ourselves," he said. He spoke of the particular pain women experience in war: receiving that letter or news of the death of their husband, child or grandchild. So often people who want to go to war "are convinced they will usher in a new world, a new springtime. But it ends up as winter -- ugly, cruel, a reign of terror and death," the pope said. Today, the world continues to head off fiercely to war and fight battles every day, he said. "Let us pray for the dead today, dead from war, including innocent children," and pray to God "for the grace to weep," he said. Among the more than 7,800 graves at the Nettuno cemetery, there are the remains of 16 women who served in the Women's Army Corps, Red Cross or as nurses, as well as the graves of 29 Tuskegee airmen. Those buried or missing in action had taken part in attacks by U.S. Allies along Italy's coast during World War II. After the Mass, the pope visited the Ardeatine Caves, now a memorial cemetery with the remains of 335 Italians, mostly civilians, brutally murdered by Nazi German occupiers in 1944. The pope was led through the long series of tunnels and stopped to pray several minutes in silence at a bronze sculpted fence symbolizing the twisted, interlocking forms of those massacred. Walking farther along the dark corridors, he placed white roses along a long series of dark gray cement tombs built to remember the victims. The victims included some Italian military, but also political prisoners and men rounded up in a Jewish neighborhood. They were all shot in the back of the head in retaliation for an attack on Nazi soldiers. The Nazis threw the bodies into the caves and used explosives to seal off access. After the war, a memorial was built on the site. Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, chief rabbi of Rome, sang a short prayer, and the pope prayed to God, merciful and compassionate, who hears the cries of his people and knows of their sufferings. ...